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After serving nation for 33 years, Sea Harriers to bid adieu

A glorious era will come to an end on Wednesday when the Sea Harriers takes to sky from the flight deck of INS Viraat, one of the India’s two operating aircraft carrier, which hosted the White Tiger squadrons for more than 33 years.

After serving nation for 33 years, Sea Harriers to bid adieu
A file photo of a Sea Harrier taking off from INS Viraat

New Delhi

“With the scheduled decommissioning of INS Viraat coupled with great difficulty the Indian Navy was facing in maintenance of the aging fleet, the Sea Harriers are being decommissioned,” an official statement issued by  the Navy said here. The newly inducted MiG 29 K fighters will replace the Sea Harriers in the White Tiger Squadrons, which had started its operations with Seahawk fighters in the early sixties.

Following the phasing out of the then obsolete Seahawk from the Royal Navy in the early 1960s, the Indian Navy trained its sight on the STOL (Short Take Off but Vertical Landing) Harrier being developed by the British Aerospace.

In November 1979, post government approval, Naval HQ placed an order for six Sea Harrier FRS Mk 51 fighters and two T Mk 60 Trainers, for delivery in 1983.

In September 1980, Sea Harrier Project (SHARP) was formed at Kingston with select naval aviators and technical personnel for coordination of trials, testing, acceptance and training. The first newly built Sea Harrier for the Indian Navy (IN 601) was ready on  December 21,1982.

The first three Sea Harriers, flying via Malta, Luxor and Dubai, led by Lieutenant Commander Arun Prakash, who went on to become the Navy Chief, landed at Dabolim on December 16, 1983.  

This was followed by the first deck landing on the  carrier, INS Vikrant, on December 20, 1983 and the arrival of the first Sea Harrier T Mk 60 trainer, on March 29, 1984.

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